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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > La Sportiva Pamir boots > Owner Review by Bob Dorenfeld



La Sportiva Pamir Boots
Owner Review By Bob Dorenfeld
October 12, 2014

Tester Bio
Name: Bob Dorenfeld

 

I'm an active hiker, snowshoer, skier, and backpacker.  Home base is the Southern Colorado Rockies, where I'll hike from 7000 ft (2100 m) to alpine tundra, with desert trips at lower altitudes.  Six to 12 miles (10 to 20 km) daily is my norm, with elevation gains up to 4000 ft (1200 m).  Many of my backpack trips are two or three nights, other trips are longer, and I usually carry about 30 lb (14 kg).  My style is lightweight but not obsessively so - extras like binoculars, camera, and notebook make my trips more enjoyable.

Email: geartest(at)sageandspruce(dot)net
Age: 56
Location: Salida, Colorado, USA
Gender: M
Height: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)


Product Overview

Manufacturer:   La Sportiva S.p.A.
Website:  www.sportiva.com
MSRP:    US$289.00
Intended Use:  Backpacking and hiking in technical and difficult terrain
Stated Weight (pair):  62.0 oz (1764 g)
Measured Weight (pair): 
60 oz (1700 g)
Materials
    - upper: 
2.8 mm greased Idro-Perwanger leather
    - insole:
7mm Trangoflex
    - midsole: 
PU Lite/EVA
    - outsole: 
Vibram PU Lite with Impact Brake System
    - lining:
 Leather
Sizes Available (EUR):
    Men's: 
38 - 48 (half sizes)
    Women's: 
36 - 43 (half sizes)
Size Reviewed: 
42
Color:
    Men's: 
Brown/Orange
    Women's: 
Grey/Lime
Crampon compatible: 
Yes
Replaceable outsoles: 
Yes   

 new Pamir
New pair of Pamirs
The La Sportiva Pamir boots are a heavy-duty all-leather boot designed for more difficult trail and off-trail terrain.  A protective rubber strip wraps across the toe and lower sides to protect the exterior leather, and stitching is kept to a minimum on the uppers.  The toe box is very stiff.  A generous tongue gusset double-folds for its entire length to keep water and snow out.  The boots are hinged at the ankle to provide comfort while the foot bends.  The 60 in (152 cm) laces extend from the top of toe to the top of the boot, and include a lace lock at the hinge to control tightness on top of the foot independently from the lower shin.  The top of the boots stand 8 in (20 cm) from the bottom of the outsole, and is raked back for comfort when laced up.

The full-grain leather uppers are pre-treated at the factory for water repellence.  The interior leather lining is not pre-treated.  Set inside are thin foot liners protecting the raw leather insole top; the liners are easily removed and are replaceable.  Vibram outsoles provide grip on the ground, and are replaceable when they become too worn.

Why Leather Boots?    

In my hiking world one size does not fit all, so I choose the right boot for the job. And sometimes an old-fashioned heavy full-grain leather boot is just the ticket.  I like leather boots (heavy or light) because they've proven to be comfortable, durable, and suited to the kinds of trails and backcountry hiking that I enjoy.  And in particularly steep and challenging terrain heavier leather boots give me better control and more confidence that I won't be limping back to the trailhead at the end of the day.  This is also the case when I carry heavier loads while backpacking or while doing trail maintenance with heavy tools.  Although the market is increasingly dominated by boots in non-leather and leather-fabric combinations, in 2013 I found the La Sportiva Pamirs.  Getting a new style and brand of boot is always a gamble - will they still be comfortable after break-in and after lots of trail use?  Since I didn't have access to a retail store to try them on, I took a risk and mail-ordered them.

Field Performance    

Feeling great in the house, I decided to keep them and hope for the best!  I had ordered a Euro size 42, which is equivalent to an American men's 9.  Although I normally wear a thick wool sock over a thin liner (and this is still my usual hiking combination) I've had to make some adjustments, as I'll detail below under Comfort.

Since beginning intensive use of the Pamirs in the spring of 2013, I've put 260 miles (420 km) on them in all kinds of terrain: smooth trails, rocky trails, mud, sand, steep talus slopes, boulders, snow and ice.  I've hiked with no pack, a day pack averaging 16 lb (7 kg), and backpacks up to 35 lb (16 kg).  The boots have seen rain, both wet and dry snow, and I've used them in temperatures as hot as 90 F (32 C) and as cold as -20 F (-29 C).  Relative humidity ranged from single digits in cold weather to about 60 percent in the warm season.

Comfort

Leather boots have a reputation for requiring a break-in period - and over the years and many boots later I can say that's true only sometimes.  So I wasn't surprised that given their tougher leather the Pamirs needed about 50 mi (80 km) to get flexed and soft in the necessary places - around the front and sides of my feet - and I was pleased at the result.  Leather is good at adapting since it molds itself to bumps and curves very well during use.  A good test of boot fit is steep up and down walks, since that tells me how my foot moves (or doesn't move) inside the boot.  The Pamir has an excellent lace arrangement, as they extend far out over the toe; and the generously long 60 in (152 cm) laces give me options.  I found it was easy to pull them to the tightness I needed over the top of my foot, and using the lace-locks keep the lower laces where I left them while completing the rest of the laces up over the ankle.  Lately I've been wrapping the leftover ends of the laces around the boot top before tying the knot, adding some additional tight fit their when I need it.  Otherwise there is some extra lace that tends to dangle towards the ground, which I usually take care of by double-knotting. 

I've found the tongue gusset to be comfortable and excellent at keeping water out of the boot.  After the break-in period the leather folds where it wants to and now lies mostly flat under the laces, where I rarely have to readjust the gusset while tying up the boot.

These boots are very waterproof, as many stream crossings and snowshoe trips have demonstrated.  Any water I've found inside the boot arrived there over the top, either from stepping too deep in the water or from melting snow.  The Pamirs do not have Gore-Tex linings.  I don't miss this feature at all, and find that all-leather boots let my feet breathe just fine in the conditions I use them in (medium to low relative humidity, temperatures usually below 75 F (24 C).

The Euro size 9 has mostly worked out for me, although with experience I now know that a half-size smaller would probably have fit me even better.  I have added some padding inside both boots: a foam insole on top of the original thin removable insole layer, and some thin foam padding above the toe and at the heel counter.  Using my usual thin-thick sock combination the boots seem to fit just a bit better for me this way, especially after getting tired near the end of a long hike, and on extreme slope conditions.

As for weight, that's what I got them for.  At about 8-12 oz (230-340 g) heavier, per boot, than most other leather or leather-synthetic hiking boots found on the market today, I certainly notice their heft.  If I'm just strolling down a well-trod trail with no obstacles then they can feel like anchors holding me back.  But as soon as I hit more challenging trail, or go off-trail with trees, rocks, and steep slope I'm grateful to have the Pamirs protecting my feet.  The thick leather keeps me from bruising anywhere on the foot or ankle area, the very stiff toe box repels all dings I've experienced so far.  Standing tall at 8 in (20 cm), the tops of the Pamirs give me great bottom-leg protection from sharp and hard objects, as well as letting me ford deeper creeks than I otherwise would be able to.  The soft calfskin leather at the top cuff is comfortable and has held up well.

Durability and Wear

The uppers have worn well so far.  I'm impressed with La Sportiva's choice of leather because it's been very durable, showing only superficial scratches and scuffs despite my subjecting them to some very rough country.  The black rubber layer covering the lower part of the boots is also tough, and I'm glad it's there to protect the leather underneath.  So far, the only separation of the rubber edge from the leather has been at the toe, but I keep that edge glued down regularly so that it won't separate even more. 

Worn

I'm still using the original laces, which are showing some wear now, especially at the toe.  I keep an eye on them, and have a backup set with which to replace the originals if they break on the trail.  The lace loops and eyelets are still in fine condition and securely attached to the boot.  When the boots were new, I did have one issue with the fabric loops located at the hinge near the ankle.  I noticed that the stitching holding these loops in the leather had some loose ends, as if they were sloppily sewed at the factory.  Rather than returning the boots for replacement, I found I could use my leather-stitching tool (with beeswax thread) to add a new layer of stitching, and so far this has held very well.  All of the other boot stitching is excellent, and shows no signs of loose thread or of coming apart.  At the ankle hinge area some of the stitching has been abraded, but so far has not broken or come loose.

top viewI really like the soft leather linings in the Pamirs.  Not only do they keep smelling like leather and not like my feet, they tend to mold to the irregularities of my feet, contributing to the boot's great fit over time.

The  outsoles have also worn well over all the mileage and rough terrain that they've been through.  Comparing some spot measurements I've recorded since the boots were new, I estimate that the Vibram has worn down an average of 1-2 millimeter, some places a mm more than that, and the lugs' originally sharp corners are more rounded now.  But traction is still excellent.  It could be another 200 mi (320 km) before I need get them resoled.  As for La Sportiva's "Impact Brake System", I can't specifically evaluate that feature.  Nonetheless, I have great confidence in the Vibram outsoles on steep rock and gravel.  One feature I do like very much is bigger spaces between lugs, and lugs that are not too deep.  This tends to keep mud and small gravel from getting stuck between the lugs, and I've found that in most situations the mud and gravel dislodges while walking; only in the worst mud do I have to stop and pick out the outsoles with a stick.

Since I don't use crampons I am unable to evaluate the crampon-compatible feature of the boot.

Leather Care

Like any leather product, my Pamir boots need occasional cleaning and treatment on both outside and inside.  La Sportiva recommends using Nikwax Waterproofing Wax For Leather on the outside surfaces, which I've done three times since they were new.  It's important to clean leather after it's been exposed to mud and dirt - just wiping or washing with clear water will remove the moisture-sucking dirt that can harm leather over the long term.  For the soft leather lining on the Pamirs' inside I use Lexol Conditioner, wiping down with a cloth every 1-2 months, depending on how often the boots get used.  La Sportiva also recommends this product, and in fact states that the warranty will be voided by not properly caring for the linings this way (salts from sweat can be absorbed by the leather, causing problems later on).


Concluding Thoughts    

These are a great pair of heavy all-leather boots.  Using good materials that are well assembled, my La Sportiva Pamir hiking boots have given me excellent wear, comfort and durability over the many miles of trail I've trekked in them.  I like the dark brown color that the men's come in.  I expect to be hiking in these boots for many years to come, and am confident they'll last through at least several outsole replacements when they're needed.

Pros
    - durable, stiff leather uppers buffer hard impacts to rocks, trees, etc.
    - very stiff midsoles protect bottoms of feet from rocks
    - Vibram outsole lasts a long time, is replaceable
    - excellent waterproofing in uppers, tongue gusset, and midsole/outsole attachment
    - very good foot and ankle support on extreme terrain
    - laces are easily adjustable from the toe up to the boot collar

Cons
    - sometimes boot weight is too much for easy trail
    - one pair of fabric lace loops (per boot) needed extra stitching when new


 Reviewed By
Bob Dorenfeld
Southern Colorado Mountains





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